A History of the County of Wiltshire: Volume 6. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1962.
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The Free School was founded with a bequest of £600 to the rector and churchwardens as trustees from Walter Dyer, of Chancery Lane, London, by his will dated 1706. A schoolmaster, chosen by the rector and churchwardens and approved by the Bishop of Salisbury, was to be paid £20 a year to teach reading, writing, arithmetic and Anglican doctrine to twenty poor boys of the parish between the ages of eight and fourteen. Richard Uphill, of Wilton, bequeathed a further £1,000 to the school by his will dated 1716. Rules made in 1731 laid down that a schoolhouse in East (now North) Street, already purchased with part of Dyer's money, was to be held by the schoolmaster rent free and kept in repair by the trustees; an allowance of £4 a year was to be made for stationery and firing, with another £25 a year for clothing the boys at Easter, and £20 a year for placing four boys at £5 each to handicraft trades or husbandry; surplus income was to be saved for repairs and allowances. The governors of the school, as distinct from the trustees, were to consist of the mayor and burgesses or aldermen who resided in the borough and parish, together with the rector and churchwardens. They nominated boys and master when need arose, subject in the case of the master to the approval of the bishop. (fn. 1)
Robert Sumption, by his will dated 1775, gave £1,000 to this charity to increase the salary of the schoolmaster, and for the better clothing, education and apprenticing of the boys. Henry Ford, of Burdens Ball Farm, who had been educated in the school, left £100 to it in his will, dated 1831. The school endowments were further augmented by the legacies of £25 from William Seagrim (1840), £100 from John Harris Flooks (1841), and £800 from Sarah Lampard (1849). (fn. 2)
The school and dwelling houses were said to be in good repair in 1833; nineteen boys attended at the time, and the religious and educational requirements of the foundation were being fulfilled. Teaching was given free, but the boys paid for school and ciphering books. About three boys a year were apprenticed to handicrafts, but none had entered husbandry; a premium of £8 10s. was paid for each boy. (fn. 3)
Under the charter of 1885 the functions of the governors were vested in six town councillors acting with the rector and churchwardens; a new body of governors was chosen in 1893 to elect a new schoolmaster, and in 1894 they made a number of changes. The more important of these increased the salary of the schoolmaster and also the stationery allowance, but decreased the clothing allowance, and limited the number of apprenticeships granted in any one year to four. New rules for the future management of the school were laid down; the number of foundationers, which had recently increased to 24, was reduced to 20, and admissions were limited to boys who had passed the fourth standard of examination in a national school; no boy might leave before he was fourteen, or stay on after he was fifteen. The curriculum was extended to include the subjects normally taught in the higher division of a good elementary school. The yearly clothing allowance was fixed at £40 and the apprenticeship grants at £34. Classrooms, lighting, and ventilation were improved by alteration and re-building.
By 1903 the school had a playground and carpenter's shop and the use of playing fields. In addition to the head master and assistant master, a woman teacher taught junior elementary subjects, and French, German, music, drill and carpentry were taught by visiting masters and mistresses. The greatly extended curriculum included elementary science, but there was no laboratory. Besides the foundation boys, who received free education, there were paying boarders, weekly boarders and day pupils; the foundationers were no longer taught in separate classrooms, although their separate dress was retained. In 1902 there were 22 fee-paying day boys and six fee-paying boarders.
Under a Board of Education scheme of 1914 the existing governors and trustees were replaced by a body consisting of the mayor and aldermen, the rector and churchwardens and the senior town councillors. In 1923 the school was discontinued under a new scheme made by the Board of Education. The net income of the charity was to be applied to certain specified objects: in the first place money was to be paid for the maintenance and improvement of any public elementary school, whose religious instruction was in accordance with Anglican principles, but excluding the schools of the Local Education Authority; financial support was also to be given to a Sunday school on the same principles. The residue of the income was to provide for special educational facilities in addition to those provided by the Local Education Authority, as for example the practical and technical instruction of boys, and the provision of buildings, tools, seeds and other apparatus. The remainder of the income might be used to provide exhibitions to secondary and technical schools, training colleges and universities, for boys of the borough, who had attended a public elementary school for not less than two years. The governors might still receive additional endowments for the general purposes of the foundation. (fn. 4) The former school house in East (now North) Street, called in 1961 the Moat House, is a two-storied building of colour-washed brick. Its front dates from the 18th century, but there may be remains of an earlier house within. Classrooms were built adjoining the house.
In the early 19th century the only other schools for poor children were three Sunday schools. One was attached to the parish church and in 1819 had 40 boys, 25 girls and another 27 children who went to learn to write. There was also a Congregational and a Methodist Sunday School. (fn. 5) By 1835 there were 100 children at the parochial school, and 156 at the Congregational school, but the Methodist school was closed. (fn. 6) At this date there were also five fee-paying daily schools with a total of 87 children, and two boarding schools with 18 children.
The parochial school became a daily school in 1842 but was not united with the National Society until 1902. (fn. 7) The school was in West Street in the premises of a former cloth mill, and had accommodation for 310 children; it received a Board of Education grant towards teachers' salaries and the training of apprentices. (fn. 8) In 1858 70 to 80 boys were taught by a certificated master and two pupil teachers, and 180 to 190 infants were taught by an assistant mistress. (fn. 9) Later in the century girls were admitted, and in 1919 there were 102 boys, 110 girls, and 118 infants on the register. (fn. 10) In 1935 the school was reorganized into the Wilton Church of England Junior School, which a year later had 170 junior mixed children, and 92 infants, and the Wilton Church of England Senior School for 200 mixed children. (fn. 11) These schools became controlled schools under the 1944 Education Act. The Junior School remained in West Street but the Senior School was moved to a new building at the Hollows to the north-west of the town.
The Congregationalists' school also became a daily school and was affiliated to the Union of British Schools. In 1858 between 150 and 170 children were taught and the school was praised for its teaching and good equipment. (fn. 12) The school was still working in 1871, (fn. 13) but later in the century it was closed.
Two dame schools were together teaching 50 children in cottages in 1858, but they were apparently closed by 1871. (fn. 14) Mrs. Sidney Herbert's Church of England School for Girls (later known as Wilton Park School) had a longer life. It was opened in 1838 in buildings inside Wilton Park and in 1858 between 30 and 40 girls were being taught by a certificated mistress. (fn. 15) In 1906 it had accommodation for 41 girls and it continued in existence until 1920. (fn. 16)
William Hews of East Knoyle by his will dated 1700 gave £5 to the poor of Wilton and the interest on this, amounting to 10s. in 1708, was distributed by the mayor and corporation. The interest was subsequently allowed to accumulate so that by 1820 a sum of £13 was distributed at the rate of 2s. 6d. to each poor person. After this the interest was again allowed to accumulate for distribution in seasons of special distress. (fn. 17) Hews's charity became one of the Wilton Municipal Charities in 1885 (see below).
The benefaction of Robert Sumption of the parish of St. Clement Dane's, London, was, by contrast, a very considerable one: by his will dated 1775 Sumption left a sum sufficient to yield £126 a year, which was to be applied to various Wilton charities. The Wilton Free School received £30, and £60 was used to establish a charity for the clothing and support of 5 poor men and 5 poor women, natives of Wilton over 50 years old, who had resided there continuously for 7 years and were receiving no other parish alms. In 1781 it was agreed, however, that the recipients of the charity might receive further relief during sickness or other emergency, but in 1783 the charity was confined to people over 60 years old. Another £30 of the interest was allocated for marriage portions, not exceeding £10, to poor young women resident in Wilton. Individual portions never amounted to less than £6, and the sum was equally divided between the applicants, but in 1827 it was decided that the number of recipients in any one year should not exceed four and, if a choice had to be made, it would fall on the most deserving who were to marry persons not of the parish of Wilton. Finally, the remaining interest was to provide £4 for the Rector of Wilton to preach an annual sermon in the parish church, and £2 for the bell-ringers on that day. (fn. 18) In his will dated 1826 James Swayne of Wilton left £500 to augment Sumption's charity for poor men and women. (fn. 19) Further augmentation was made in the will of Sarah Lampard, dated 1849. (fn. 20) Sumption's charity and these later endowments were brought under control of the trustees of the Wilton Municipal Charities in 1885 (see below).
The smaller benefactors of the 19th century devoted their charities as a rule partly to a bread dole, as a form of poor relief, and partly to the support of the Wilton Sunday School. James Swayne bequeathed £19 19s. to this school, and it also benefited by the interest on £20 left at an unknown date by John Thomas, a clothier of Wilton, and a further gift of James Swayne and Samuel Hawes. From Mease's charity (see below) the Sunday school received £10 a year, and £3 a year to buy two Bibles as prizes, while Sarah Langstaff, by her will dated 1869, left £19 19s. to be used by the rector for the school. The annual income of all these endowments, amounting to £11 7s. 8d. in 1903, sufficed to clean and warm the room of the Sunday school, and to supply books for the 250 children attending it. (fn. 21)
Charities for the distribution of bread to the poor were established by a bequest of £100 by John Thomas, augmented by gifts from James Swayne and Samuel Hawes: the bread was to be distributed to the Protestant poor of the parish just before Christmas every year. (fn. 22) A similar bequest of £200 in the will of William Seagrim, dated 1840, (fn. 23) and a bequest of £500 in the will of John Harris Flooks, dated 1841, the last applying to the parish of South Newton, alternately with that of Wilton, increased the bread charity. The charity was administered by the relieving officer of the parish, and the receipt of other poor relief did not disqualify. The distribution of one loaf was made on New Year's day, and other loaves were given away during the winter. (fn. 24)
The legacy of Thomas Mease in his will dated 1816 constituted as a whole the most considerable of the 19th-century benefactions, but was in practice subdivided into a number of smaller charities. The interest at first amounted to £200, but later fell to £171. In addition to the bequest to the Sunday school mentioned above, there was one to the three local friendly societies meeting at the Bell and Greyhound Inns, Wilton, and at the Bell Inn, Ditchampton: their most deserving members were to receive £5, £2 and £2 respectively. The report of the Charity Commissioners of 1903 showed that to some extent this charity was out of date, for most of the work hitherto done by the friendly societies was by then being done by larger societies, more especially the Oddfellows and the Free Foresters. It was, however, generally agreed that the society meeting at the Bell Inn, Ditchampton, was still doing useful work. Mease's gift also included an annual sum of £62 10s. to be paid in vouchers as maternity benefits to 50 poor married women, whose husbands had resided for the previous three years in Wilton. A further £96 of interest was to be applied to the clothing and support of 10 poor widows, and 6 poor widowers over 50 years old, who were natives or parishioners of Wilton, or had resided there for 7 years, and had not received alms from any parish. This was simply a dole and, if outdoor relief had not been obtained as well, the recipients would undoubtedly have had to go to the workhouse. Mease's gift also provided an annual payment of £6 (later reduced to £5 10s.) to the governors of Salisbury Infirmary on condition that the resident curate of Wilton should be allowed to nominate patients; in 1903 the then curate was said to have nominated 15 or 16 out-patients, and 5 in-patients. A gift was also made for furthering instruction in the evening school. (fn. 25) It is clear that the benefits of this large charity were scattered rather too widely to be of great practical advantage to those who received them. Its administration was transferred to the trustees of the Wilton Municipal Charities in 1885 (see below).
In 1887 James Rawlence, of Bulbridge, gave £1,000 to the trustees of the Wilton Municipal Charities to be invested for the maintenance of a parish nurse for the sick poor. This gift was increased by £400 from the children of James Rawlence, and by £25 from the Wilton Charter Celebration Committee, but the fund was still not large enough to meet all expenses, and the difference was made good by voluntary contributions, while a rent-free house for the nurse was supplied by Lord Pembroke. (fn. 26)
Wilton charities were thus quite numerous, although generally small in amount because so much subdivided, and their administration presented considerable problems. Under the Borough of Wilton Scheme, 1885, all charity property vested in or under the direction of the old corporation, was henceforth vested in the Trustees of Municipal Charities in the borough for its future administration. There was some doubt which charities were concerned, but for the time being the new trustees administered the Free School, (fn. 27) Sumption's charity, with its subsidiary endowments, Hews's charity, Mease's charity, with its subsidiary endowments, and St. Giles's Hospital. (fn. 28) In 1894, however, the new governors appointed for the Free School undertook the administration also of Sumption's gifts according to the original stipulation of the benefactor; while the rector and the clerk to the trustees of the Municipal Charities continued to administer Mease's charity, so that only Hews's charity and the St. Giles Hospital remained in the sole charge of the trustees appointed in 1885. In 1896 the powers of the parish council in respect of charities were delegated to the town council, (fn. 29) but these powers were never acted upon because of the difficulty in distinguishing between parochial and ecclesiastical charities. By 1901 most of the trustees originally appointed in 1885 had died, but, with the exception of the Free School and Sumption's charity, no new appointments had been made, so that the burden fell heavily upon the rector. In 1901 the town council applied to the Charity Commissioners for the appointment of the mayor and aldermen, and the rector and churchwardens to administer in future the whole of the Wilton charities, that is, the charities of Mease, Sumption, James Swayne, John Thomas, Hews, St. Giles and the Free School. The Commissioners accordingly held an inquiry at Wilton in 1902, the report on which was issued in 1903.
In 1907 a revised scheme for the administration of Wilton charities was approved by the Charity Commissioners. Under this scheme a body of 13 trustees was formed, who were empowered to make regulations for the management of the whole of the non-educational charities within the limits prescribed by the scheme. (fn. 30) In 1910 slight changes were made within the scheme, and fixed yearly payments were apportioned to Sumption's charity, the non-educational charities of Mease and Lampard, and the charity of James Rawlence and others. The residue of the income of the united charities was to be applied to the general benefit of the poor of the parish. In particular the funds were to be applied in aid of four special kinds of charity: first, to any dispensary, infirmary, hospital or convalescent home, and any provident club or society for the supply of coal, clothes or other necessaries; secondly, towards the provision of nurses and midwives, and the travelling expenses of patients to hospitals and infirmaries, and also towards the cost of an outfit for persons under twenty-one entering service or a trade or other occupation; thirdly, to supply clothes, linen, bedding, fuel, medical and other assistance in cases of sickness within an annual limit of £20, or temporary relief in emergency, within the same limit; and fourthly, to provide pensions to poor persons of good character, who had resided in the parish for two years, and who through age, ill-health, infirmity or accident could not fully maintain themselves, but who had not received poor law relief other than sick relief. (fn. 31)
A second revision of the scheme in 1955 extended the benefits of the charities to all the inhabitants of the borough as enlarged since 1910, and added to the list of objects for general aid the provision of domestic help for the sick and aged, and payments to homes for the aged. (fn. 32) Five years earlier, the total income from the Wilton united charities, not including Rawlence's nurse's charity, was £408, so that after the fixed sums had been spent the amount left to distribute in general aid was not great. (fn. 33) Nevertheless, the Wilton united charities scheme of 1907, with the modifications of 1910 and 1955, simplified the administration and concentrated the resources of the widespread private benevolence of the previous two centuries.